Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has pinpointed experience as a key factor in his side’s 3-0 Hyundai A-League loss to Melbourne Victory in Wellington.
“They’re a team that’s used to playing in finals and is pretty well battle-hardened”, said Merrick of his former club.
“Under pressure and high expectation, they still perform, they win the ball, they keep possession and they’re clinical in their finishing. So to start by conceding a goal after thirty seconds against the best team in the league at the moment makes life very tough.”
“To their credit, our boys continued to press to try and create something and score a goal. I don’t think we were going to win the game but we were unlucky not to score a goal”, said Merrick.
Despite a second straight home loss, the Phoenix mentor remained upbeat.
“I’m positive because I keep seeing good things. I see someone come in and fill a position and do a reasonably good job, midfielders who started off badly and then readjusted reasonably well and good free-kicks which we were unlucky not to get a head onto. It’s easy to look at all the negative things that happened but I see a lot of good, positive things there”.
Merrick will also welcome back key players from injury and suspension for what now shapes as a crucial away clash with Melbourne City next Sunday.
“We didn’t play the bottom team in the league today and there is certainly a lot to learn from that match. The boys aren’t looking for excuses. The best team won the game, but we’ll be stronger next week. We’ve got Lia, Riera and Sigmund to come back, and no doubt Burns and McGlinchey will be fresher. McGlinchey was really tired tonight.”
“If I can keep their minds focussed on their jobs and the processes and the game itself rather than worrying about outcomes, that’s our best chance. I’m working more on their heads than I am with the ball. If I can get their heads up – and I think I will – and we approach next week with a very positive outlook, I think we’ll do well.”
However, Merrick confirmed that recent acquisition Joel Griffiths suffered a serious knee injury when he fell awkwardly in the first half and is almost certain to miss the remainder of the season.